February 13, 2013
In part inspired by a post someone shared on Facebook, I’ve updated the legal language in the right sidebar.
The first four paragraphs are my attempt to remind people that things like copyright and academic integrity exist even in cyberspace.
I feel I ought to explain the last paragraph, however, especially for those who don’t know about the economics of “free” content-generating media (like blogs, network TV, and those local magazines near the restrooms in the Barnes and Noble).
If you’re between 22 and 50, you can stop reading, because you all already know this stuff. If you’re under 22, you also probably know it, but you should read anyway, because I doubt you’ve ever thought about it. Anyone over 50 who starts reading and thinks, “I already know this stuff” should pat himself on the back for being more tech-savvy than average.
Amazon affiliate ads: Amazon affiliates are everywhere. If you make a purchase at Amazon after clicking there from someone else’s site, someone will get a wee little kickback from that. It may be the individual writing the content (like me) or it may be the website host (like Xanga or Blogger) or it may be the social media platform (like Facebook or Ravelry).
Individuals, sites, and companies with integrity will let you know this. Ravelry, for example, lets you know every time you click the link. Bloggers may let you know with an occasional post or by fine print like the paragraph I’ve just added to the right.
Apparently, there’s enough money to be made in Amazon affiliate revenue that people have come up with strategies to boost their revenue. Some of these are more frown-inducing than others. Some people will try to disguise their affiliate links by using url-shortening services like tinyurl.com. Some social media platforms and website hosts automatically disable affiliate links and replace the affiliate code (the part of the url that tells Amazon whom they owe the kickback to) with their own. Some people make sure to write blog posts that give them an excuse to include an affiliate link.
And then there’s people like me, who don’t make enough in affiliate revenue to justify blogging at all. If anyone is worried that Amazon affiliate links might make me “sell out” to “The Man,” I offer my solemn vow: if I ever make more than $100 a year in Amazon links, I will include a notice on this blog that it is a for-profit website.
Amazon only offers this kickback with a purchase: I don’t make any money when you click but don’t purchase, and I don’t make any money simply by having the links there.
If I understand the terms of my agreement with Amazon correctly, I am allowed to solicit your use of this program. I might say, for example, “Hey, if you’re going to do your Christmas shopping at Amazon, please consider clicking through this site!” I don’t recall ever having done that, because it always seemed a little off to me. It strikes me, however, that it might be a helpful way to educate less tech-savvy surfers. It might also be a way to be more transparent about how your site operates. I have a hard time imagining how anyone could be taken advantage of by Amazon affiliate links, but I suppose it’s possible: the piece I linked above talked about a popular blogger who solicits personal donations while claiming to be “ad-free.”
Google ads are also everywhere.
Google ads may also generate revenue for the content-producer (the blogger like me or the dad who puts up videos of his toddler’s infectious giggle on youtube), for the website host (like Xanga or Blogger), or for the social media platform (like Facebook).
Unlike Amazon affiliate ads, Google ads generate revenue on both a per-impression and a per-click basis. Google counts the number of times someone sees an ad on your site and compensates you a wee tiny little bit. If someone actually clicks on an ad, Google compensates you a little bit more.
Unlike Amazon, Google doesn’t have a set, published compensation structure. There are more variables than with Amazon links, and not all of those variables are published.
Apparently, there’s enough money to be made in Google ads that people do some naughty stuff to generate revenue; there is a bit wider range of naughtiness here, because the revenue is not limited to compensation for actual purchases generated. They write robo-clicking programs, they ask people to click their ads, they put ads on pages with protected material (movies, TV shows), etc.
And then there’s people like me, who don’t make enough in ad revenue to justify blogging at all. If anyone is worried that Google ads might make me “sell out” to “The Man,” I offer my solemn vow: if I ever make more than $200 a year in Google ads, I will include a notice on this blog that it is a for-profit website.
My agreement with Google specifically prohibits me from encouraging clicks on my Google ads: I can’t say, “Hey, click on my ads so that I can get more money!”
I’m talking about these agreements here not to draw your attention to the fact that your clicks do generate revenue for me, but to alert you to how the internet works: The content is “free” for the consumer only to a degree. You are “paying” for your entertainment by consuming ads along with your encouraging mommy blogs, your news (and “news”) articles, your free aps and Facebook games.
So. There we are. I have ads, and they generate revenue for me. In my case, it’s less revenue for me than it costs to have a blog at all, but it’s still there. It may have some hidden effects on me as a blogger: I may write a crappy post, just to have something there so you’ll keep coming. I may write about every book that comes across my path, not just the ones worth talking about, so that I’ll have an excuse to include an Amazon link. I may say something scandalous just to provoke activity in the comments section–more activity means more impressions! I think the effect in my case is relatively small.
But there may be sites, bloggers, people, industries, platforms for whom the effect is quite large. It’s worth mentioning for that reason alone.
Can you do me a favor, if you made it this far? If you didn’t know how these ads worked, would you mind letting me know in the comments section?
And I will confess: I’m an amateur at this. If you know something about my ads that I don’t, would you mind letting me know in the comments section? If there’s more nefarious behavior that I should be aware of, I would really appreciate you telling me.